Shadows of the Empire, Chapter 31

will: We’re back! And we have the combination!

Wait. Wrong universe (sorta).

Anyway. After two weeks of break (which is not the same thing as two weeks of rest, mind), we’re back into a normal routine, which means continuing to be disappointed by ourselves of the past, or at least myself, because I remember liking this book, once upon a time.

In other news, Z has a pair of work deadlines, so once again I’m taking your lead.

z: Popping in here with my commentary, popping right back out to my proposal draft.

will: Luke admits he’s in a better neighborhood than they were, and asks where they are going. Lando points to a plant shop –yup, that one. He explains that Spero doesn’t actively owe him a favor (for once), but he’s a good information source. They get a lot of dirty looks for being in stormtrooper uniforms, but nobody will mess with them either.

They enter the shop, and it’s empty–and then they hear a Wookiee behind them. Lando raises his arms, they turn around, and it’s Chewie. Speed hugs and speed explanations; Lando eventually starts to translate. Chewie tied up Spero in the back, to make it look like he wasn’t involved. Leia thinks Black Sun is who wants Luke dead, they don’t know how to get into–

BLAM

That’s a blaster bolt through the open door, and four non-uniformed individuals are blasting away. How they missed at the range they could have gotten I’ll never know. Luke asks who’s shooting and why, Lando asks who cares, they determine there’s another way out through the back, they pass Spero (and Lando tells him to send the Alliance a bill), and out they go–or try to, the back-exit guard fires (over their heads).

z: …and I’m still screaming “Are you going to leave the Ho’Din tied up?! In the middle of a firefight? Not knowing who these people are and whether they’ll come in and torch the entire place as soon as you’re out?!”

will: They’re boxed in, right up until someone screams, and Dash Rendar shows up again, does a complete “blaster spin and blow across the top,” no, I’m not kidding, it’s in the text, and Dash says “come on, let’s go.”

They go.

z: There’s a moment, when Luke recognizes Rendar and thinks “he’s saving me again, I hate that,” I actually said out loud “You’re not the only one, Luke.”

will: Scene shift. Vader asks if “you” (a small man, no name) are certain. “He” is. It’s a tape documenting a freelance agent telling an Alliance crew chief that killing Luke Skywalker would make her rich. They have the records. No clear connection to Xizor, but Vader’s agents are on it. They’ll find who the agent was, who paid that agent, and so on and so on. More circumstantial evidence, for now, but eventually, Xizor will fall from this.

z: Will’s doing a good hatchet job on overwrought metaphors in here, by the way.

will: Scene shift back. Dash is leading the four through a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. He explains he did the same sensor-shadow trick (describing it as “a good pilot can do it in his sleep,” which Lando smiles a bit sickly at when he admits they did the same thing), and that everybody knows Spero is an infobroker, which…seems like a liability, but then, maybe it just means it’s neutral ground…but then there was the shooting and Chewie tied Spero up and I’m putting in more effort than Perry did.

z: I was gonna say. After all, “everyone knows Spero” is one step above “Everyone passes through Times Square at some point,” but not by much.

will: Lando asks, why do anything at all? Dash admits he feels like he owes the Empire for that screwup with the Bothan attack, so when Chewie called, he figured he could even the scales out. Luke understands, and Dash says he has contacts…

z: See, the thing is, if Dash had felt “I owe you because I screwed up there,” that’s one thing. If he had felt “I just figured out that the Empire is evil so I needed to stand up to them,” that’s… a lamer thing, but still a thing. But what he says reads like “I messed up there so I figured out that the Empire is evil and…” …and I’m putting in more effort than Perry did.

will: Scene shift. Xizor tells Leia that she must breakfast with him. She isn’t hungry, she says, and she’s back in the bounty hunter getup. Xizor insists, and Leia holds on to her anger as a repulsion of that edge of attraction–

z: –she still feels because pheremonic mind control gag me with a spoon–

will: She fishes for information about Chewie. Xizor confirms that Chewie is gone. Leia tries to be smug about that, but Xizor one-ups her: he let Chewie go to bring Luke to Coruscant. Leia didn’t figure that out until now, so now she isn’t hungry, thanks to this “twisted, brilliant, and evil” antagonist who a decently-written Leia could think rings around…but let’s just go.

z: Pro-tip: If you need to have your other characters tell the reader that your antagonist is twisted, brilliant, and evil…

will: Luke asks Dash where they’re going, and Dash says, a safe house, and they can figure out what to do. Luke, however, experiences a moment of clarity, of the Force, and says he knows what they’re going to do: rescue Leia.

Everyone agrees. Luke reflects on how the Force is not about struggling to attain it and control it, but relax and allow it to be. It’s simple–but it’s not easy. But then, as Yoda put it, the first step to wisdom is admitting ignorance.

You know, this isn’t bad. Oh, it’s bog-standard quasimystical stuff, but then, so was the Force in the original Star Wars. Still, it is kind of out of place here.

z: It’s not only just out of place, but it’s so abrupt that Will probably heard me yelling “oh, come on!” at the Deus Ex Force-Revelashun!!! moment.

will: Guri stands as Xizor dresses and says that a Corellian freighter matching the Falcon is in the South Pole warehouse district. Xizor is doubtful (Guri cites “the freighter trick”), but says, check it out, and if that’s it, watch for Luke and kill him. He has his doubts as to how quickly Luke could have shown up, but it’s possible, and so much the better, killing Luke right under Vader’s nose.

z: Perry makes sure to note that Guri doesn’t react to Xizor not wearing anything. …yeah, I’ve got okay short-term memory, I remember Guri is an android…? Are you going to remind me that the Empire is evil in the next paragraph, too?

–hold that thought.

will: However, there’s business to do. He enters his office and greets his appointments: first a General from the Destab (as in, “destabilization”) Branch of Imperial Intelligence, a classic REMF (look that one up) who has access to all sorts of useful information.

You’re telling me this guy meets openly and personally with the head of Black Sun. The text devotes a paragraph to how there’s all sorts of scanning to prevent violence, but seriously. Argh.

Anyway. Xizor hands over the monthly bribe and gets a download of information.

We get a list of such meetings:, the head of the “Exotic Entertainers’ Union” asks for pay increases and working condition improvements, Xizor agrees, and Black Sun will make the appropriate “request” to the “Owners’ League.” The head of planetary construction contracts comes in for his bribe to pass along underbid contracts with planned cost overruns. A spice dealer drops off several millions’ credits of product as a goodwill gesture.

Now we’re explicitly told that Xizor does this face-to-face on purpose, part of the job. And…okay, I guess. It’s old-school Godfather stuff, putting a real person, not a faceless mass, to this sort of skullduggery. But…boring.

z: Also, if memory serves, that was the opening sequence of The Godfather. For a Force-be-damned reason. This is, what, 80% into the book?

(ohpleaseohpleaseohplease)

There’s also this whole big long sequence about no one could successfully rat on Xizor after one of these meetings because there are Black Sun moles in all law enforcement agencies of course and the would-be informants would just disappear of course and that would have been a great way to describe to us how nicely entrenched this organized crime group is within the power structure of the Empire except, once again, 80% of the way into the book.

Oooof.

Also:

will: Oh, hey, I think I’m being spoken to: the text tells us that maybe this is boring, but Xizor is never bored, boredom is for people who lack imagination, and Xizor can work as mentally hard staring at a wall as most people do on a complex problem, which I agree with but isn’t the sort of thing I think Perry meant to imply…

z: Not only that, it’s nearly three-quarters of a page of self-congratulatory “As you know, self” thinking in the Xizor-PoV narrative, describing what an intellectual giant and awesome being Xizor is because he is S-M-R-T and would always be able to find something to occupy his Massive Brains and…

…I keep flashing back to how poor Mike Stackpole caught a lot of flak because he dared to give Corran green eyes when his own eyes are green and “self-insertion character!!” this and “Marty-Stu!” that…

…and all the while, there is Xizor.

Spoon. Gag. You know the drill.

will: Final scene shift. They get into the safe house, which Dash says costs a fortune for the security despite the exterior being another “looks awful” and the interior being comparable to, say, a Holiday Inn.

z: Okay, I laughed. Thanks for that.

(That was Will making me laugh, not the book.)

will: Dash asks if there are any ideas and Luke has one, and we will hear it probably never because that’s the end of the chapter and I’m sure we’ll go straight to the execution, you never tell the plan in advance.

And we’re out.

Yet another “well, it wasn’t exactly bad, but it wasn’t exactly good either” chapter. Except that Xizor really is as boring and flat a character as he is supposed to not be.

Z?

z: …and as Perry wastes a whole lot of ink and paper, or nowadays battery power and screen real estate, telling us he is not. For some reason, that was worse in this chapter than some of the recent ones–actually, probably because the plot railroad demanded that we spend some time in the Xizor PoV again because… reasons… while the only moving part is the Luke/Lando subplot at the moment in fact but we couldn’t have the whole chapter be on them because… reasons…

…and I need to get back to work, because way, way more concrete, deadline-related reasons.

Join us next week when we get to see what Force REVELASHUN!!!11!! Luke had. Until then, may the Force be with you.

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